“Dal is the High King, ruler of the heavens and earth and all the lesser gods. Hela rules the darkness, Sela the heavens and thunder.”
He grips his rifle and stares through the open door of the C-47.
The aircraft bucks and judders in the gusts.
Next to him, Parks is heaving as though he might be sick.
Ilya hits him hard on the arm.
“Ow!” says Parks, looking hurt.
Ilya proffers a Lucky Strike, lights it with his brass Zippo.
A sound like thunder over the drone of the engines.
Distant flashes in the clouds.
Not thunder, then.
Anti-aircraft guns beneath the fog below.
Parks retches again.
Ilya waves his fist.
Parks shrinks back, grinning. “Just fucking with you.”
The wind brings with it a new smell of green woods.
Ilya closes his eyes and tries to remember the prayer to Sela.
What Pegman Saw: Chechnya
On the night of June 5th, 1944, 13,100 American paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were dropped into France to secure inland positions for the enormous Allied invasion the next morning. High winds and foggy conditions scattered both the 101st and 82nd Airborne divisions all over the countryside, with hundreds of soldiers landing in trees, swamps, and even rooftops. Despite a disastrous beginning, the Airborne was able to effectively assemble and take most of their objectives.
America being what it is, many of the soldiers were the sons or grandsons of immigrants from France, Italy, Germany, and even Chechnya. Traditional Chechens believed that trees were the abodes of spirits and developed many rituals to serve a complex cosmology of gods and demons.